Seattlites and sunglasses enthusiasts proudly assert the claim, but I've found no comparative analysis to back it up.
Terry D. Seidler, a Seattle tour guide, makes the typical statement in a list of Seattle Firsts and attributes it to the P.E.O. Record:
Seattle sells more sunglasses per capita than any other major city in the nation.
The P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) Record Mar-Apr 1997
The online archive of the P.E.O. Record goes back no further than December 2003, so it's difficult to know if the P.E.O. provides scientific support.
Darwin Liao, director of the Seattle Sunglasses Company's downtown shop, repeats the mantra in a July 2011 interview with Sunglasses magazine:
SG: Do you think the weather in Seattle has any impact on your business?
DL: Seattle has highest per-capita sunglasses sales than any other major city in the nation.
Liao goes on to cite an active-outdoors population, the mountain geography, and tourism as reasons for the perennially strong sales:
We do have a lot of water and people are active year round—whether they’re runners or cyclists—so they’re looking for eye protection, which is why we do sell a fair amount of bronze lenses and lighter color lenses. And we’ve got two mountain ranges where we get low sun at the horizon, so we get that really bright blue sky, sunny mornings, and all winter long when you’re driving, there’s a lot of glare. And even when it’s overcast, there’s a significant amount of light. But you definitely do see the seasonalities as well. We’ll definitely pick up sales in mid-February, as people are getting ready to go on spring break—we’ve got a lot of snow birds that go down to Arizona, Palm Springs, CA, or Hawaii. But, of course, the traditional strong months in spring and summer are just as strong for us because we’ve got tourists.
His explanation of popularity is plausible, but it is qualitative and makes no comparison. A salesman in California or Florida, states famous for their sunshine, could easily make a similar statement.
Without hard sales figures from stores in Seattle and other American cities, there is no way to disprove the claim of the highest sales. In the end, it's easy to dismiss this as sales banter.
Is there any data available to prove his claim?